Rassie banking on Wales being personal for Pieter-Steph

rugby18 June 2024 15:30| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Pieter-Steph du Toit © Gallo Images

Rassie Erasmus will start his second stint as the official Springbok head coach against the same opponents and in similar circumstances, meaning at a neutral venue, that he started his first.

Against Wales, this time in London as opposed to Washington.

He will also have the same captain that led the team in his first match in charge in 2018.

Pieter-Steph du Toit stood in for the appointed captain, Siya Kolisi, six years ago, and he will fulfill the stand-in role again.

The team Du Toit leads this time is less makeshift than the one that lost by two points back then, but that’s mainly because Erasmus has now succeeded in the mission he started on that visit to the United States capital - he’s grown the depth of experience and re-established the Boks as a major force.

For the record, there are four players aside from Du Toit who are in the starting team against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday who played in Washington.

The same midfield combination of Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel is together all these years later, Makazole Mapimpi is back too having won a World Cup in the interim, and Ox Nche is there too.

None of those players have been first choices for all of the six years that have passed since the Washington game, with the exception of Du Toit.

Erasmus didn’t rate Du Toit that highly back then, which was why he was leading the second string team from his old position of lock.

Since then he’s made a permanent switch of positions to blindside flank, has won two World Cups and was the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year.


In other words, he’s grown not just in Erasmus’s estimation, but has also made immeasurable strides in his stature as a player on the global stage.

What he hasn’t done though is lead the Boks again, so he still has that one blemish on his record.

As in one captaincy opportunity, one loss. Everyone else has forgotten that game, but Du Toit wouldn’t have, and that personal motivation was part of the reason that Erasmus has entrusted him with the leadership for this game.

“Pieter-Steph has been a key figure in our system for several years now and he’s a player who leads by example on the field,” said Erasmus.

“We have a strong core of senior players in this group, and we had a few options for captain, but we feel Pieter-Steph will be the right man to lead the team this week. He has captained the Springboks only once before and that was against Wales in 2018 and, after that result, we believe it will make this match even more personal for him.

“Over and above that, he has immense respect from his teammates and the coaches, and we know he will accept this responsibility with great pride,” added the coach, who in his playing career also had a very fleeting experience of being Bok captain (he led the Boks in one test against Australia in 1999).


Erasmus had less choice back in 2018 in his first test in charge, in the sense that he’d left the bulk of his first choice team back home to prepare for a series against England that started just a week later.

With a fortnight to go after the Twickenham game before the Boks start the series against Ireland at Loftus, Erasmus has more leeway this time.

That has enabled him to choose a team that is more of a blend of experience and youth/experimentation than that first one was.

He has two debutants at the back in the form of flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse and wing Edwill van der Merwe, both of the Emirates Lions, as well as the DHL Stormers duo of Ben-Jason Dixon and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu on the bench.

Apart from strutting their stuff and impressing him in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, Erasmus says they underlined their potential at training since the national training camp convened in Pretoria as well as before that at the alignment camps.

“This is an exciting playing squad and travelling group, and we are looking forward to seeing how the uncapped players step up at top international level and how we execute what we’ve been working on at training in the last few days and at the alignment camps,” said Erasmus.

“The likes of Edwill, Jordan, Ben-Jason, and Sacha have really impressed us at training, and we believe they have what it takes to make their presence felt against a quality team such as Wales.

They will be surrounded by several experienced campaigners, some of whom are Rugby World Cup winners, so they will have enough guidance on the field to fulfil their roles even when the pressure is on.

“It is equally exciting for us to see players such as Aphelele Fassi, Evan Roos, Ntuthuko Mchunu and Salmaan Moerat back in the green in gold after earning their stripes in the last few seasons.”